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Published: April 7, 2008 at 04:46 AM GMT
Last Updated: April 8, 2008 at 04:46 AM GMT
Prior to the smash-success of her online Web series, The Guild, Felicia Day was most noted for her recurring role as Vi on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She also appeared in a number of films, including Bring it on Again, June and most recently the Emmy award-winning Warm Springs with Kenneth Branagh.
The Guild, her sitcom about a group of online gamers, took home a Greenlight Award at South by Southwest (SXSW), an annual music and media festival. The show also won the Series category for the 2007 YouTube Awards with 39.9% of the votes.
Day recently talked with me about her online gaming addiction and what she thinks it takes to make an online series successful. An edited transcript of our conversation follows.
Nina Spezzaferro: I read somewhere that you were a gamer for 22 years. Is that correct?
Felicia Day: Well, I still game. I literally started gaming when I was 5 or 6. We had these text-based games. We had some Tetris games. As we got older, we had an Amiga, which is totally outdated format of computer. We’d play Faery Tale Adventure and Marble Madness and all that stuff. My mom didn’t let us have a console so I became more of a PC gamer because for some reason it was more okay to have games on the PC.
NS: What are your current favorite online gaming communities?
FD: I played World of Warcraft for two years. I still want to play that a lot, even though I don’t. And I like to play independent, casual games because I feel like I have such an obsessive personality that I think the casual sort of games are probably a better way for me to go, to not be obsessively playing it 9 hours a day. I also play Puzzle Pirates which is a really fun, online Java independent game. I was addicted for a year and a half and there are a lot of cool people on there.
NS: You mentioned that Tina Fey is your idol. Are there any other actresses that you admire?
FD: I have a great admiration for Lucille Ball because she was a real businesswoman and she really made TV what it is, especially the sitcom format. And as far as actresses, Cate Blanchett, of course, is my idol but I guess my acting style is a little bit more Lisa Kudrow.
NS: Since you had a handful of TV roles, what made you decide to do a Web series?
FD: I’ve always been really tech savvy and more Internet-oriented as far as spending my time online. I had like three roles in a row for TV series regulars that I was second-choice for and I got really frustrated. I decided I needed to do something where I can be creative and be in control of. So I wrote a half-hour pilot script, The Guild. I showed it around and people were like “Oh, that’s really funny but honestly, it’s too much of a niche audience for TV.”
I didn’t know what to do with it. I was in a women’s
So, we just got together and shot the first two episodes on our own and funded it ourselves. Afterwards, we couldn’t really afford to do the rest so we put the PayPal button up and just happened to have enough fan support to shoot 8 more episodes.
NS: I was really surprised at the high production value of the series since it was largely funded on donations. So how did you get around the funding issues?
FD: Our look has evolved. We learned how to balance the means of an Internet video with looking really good. Ever since the third episode, we just pay crew and production costs. Nobody has made any money. The actors haven’t gotten paid. We have a very minimal crew it’s just a question of lighting a little bit more carefully and making some production design choices that make the show pop a little more than the normal Internet video. And I think that’s just a testament to the fact that we’re all working professionals in the entertainment industry. So if you have people who work on professional sets, you kind of know how to do it. It’s just a question of whether or not you have the resources to get the results that you want.
NS: How did you find the actors?
FD: Two of the actors I do improv with, Jeff Lewis and Sandeep Parikh, who play Vork and Zaboo. Basically, they’re really hilarious and I said if I ever wrote a part for someone, I would write them parts. So I deliberately wrote them parts.
NS: You mentioned possibly taking the series to TV but then you said fans of the series are on the internet anyway. Was there any fan reaction to that?
FD: We get tons of comments that say “This should be on TV!” And then we get comments that say “Don’t put it on TV, that’ll just make it bad.” Basically, we have a ten-episode arc and five episodes would be one episode in a half-hour series.
Obviously, with a budget for TV, people would get paid properly. You can’t make a living doing Web series at this point because the financial model has not given people incentive to invest heavily in it. I think it’s moving toward that but we’re on the early part of that shift to entertainment-on-demand. We have a lot of people interested in helping us fund the show to make it more financially justifiable. The budget on a TV show and the flexibility and the fact that we’d be putting lots and lots of episodes out at the same time could potentially be great for everyone involved but if it’s not going to happen, then we’re doing it on the web. I think there’s a lot of potential to grow the show and give the fans a lot more of an experience with the show than they have now.NS: When will the Season 1
FD: We’re talking with some people about possibly having a funding partner. But I don’t want to wait too long. I would like to release it in June or early July because we’d like to go to Comic-Con and be able to have people be able to buy the
NS: What kind of extras will be on the
FD: I’ve had a lot of requests for commentary and also subtitling because we have a lot of international fans, which is really cool. So I would like to put closed captioning and all that stuff on there for people to enjoy who haven’t been able to enjoy it to the fullest. And then we’ll have interviews with the actors and behind the scenes video footage and extra gag reels. We’ve only released one gag-reel and I wanted to keep the other gag-reels for the
NS: What do you think makes an online series popular? Is it the content or the promotion?
FD: I think it’s a combination of both. You need to have a very specific audience in mind. You can make it as edgy as you want but you have to be specific. You can’t just say “Oh, it’s a bunch of white guys living in a dorm.” I mean, I just don’t know if that’s really that interesting anymore because what’s the incentive for someone to watch that on the internet if they can watch that on TV done glossier and more polished and done better and more regularly?
Doing a Web series is an opportunity for people who don’t live in LA and don’t have the same background as people who are making television now to really have a unique viewpoint. Comedy is about surprise and people just are not surprised about the typical things that people write about on TV now. So, if you can have a voice and talk about something that is not necessarily part of the mainstream, then it’s very easy for you to be specific about how to get that show to the people on the Internet.
NS: Are there any online series that you watch regularly?
FD: I like Break a Leg. I think that’s a really fun show. I don’t watch a lot of series on the Internet, per se. I try out a lot of them but nothing is like “I’ve got to see this thing next week.” But I’m so busy with my show that I don’t even have time to sit down and watch a regular movie.
For more on Felicia Day and The Guild, visit WatchTheGuild.com.
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